4
Nov

About the Korngold Reviews

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This letter, Time Out article and Strad review all relate to my performances of the Korngold Violin Concerto. In 1982, when I was at music college, a friend and myself were keen fans of Jascha Heifetz’ playing. One of my favourite recordings at that time was Heifetz playing the Korngold Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and- having an urge to learn it- I looked about for the music. I found that it wasn’t available in this country but, as luck would have it, my friend was going to visit his father in America and picked up the music there for me. On his return he bet me £10 that I wouldn’t be able to learn it in three weeks ready for a concerto competition at the Royal College of Music.


Spurred on by the money (I was a penniless student!) I managed to learn it for the competition and later that year performed it with the RCM Symphony Orchestra. To my great surprise I was informed by the Korngold Society that this was the first British performance of the piece. It was only later that the Korngold Violin Concerto started to be played and to gain in popularity – nowadays everyone plays it – then, nobody played it! I sent a recording of the performance to George Korngold, Erich Korngold’s son, and you can see his reply. Feeling a special affinity with this concerto I then went on to perform it many more times including two broadcast performances with the BBCSO in 1994 and 1998.


2
Nov

A letter from Erich Korngold’s Son

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>Dear Mr. Bryant:


I know that my wife had written to you to tell you why I couldn’t answer your kind letter.


I have been home now for 6 weeks and am recuperating quiet well. Hence, I am finally able to take care of my correspondence.


Thank you for the very nice news about your upcoming performances of the Korngold Concerto. I am delighted that you are playing it, especially after listening to the cassette of your performances from 1982. Congratulations! You have a beautiful tone, play with great musicality and no need to say anything about the fine technique. I wish you all the best for a future career, which, is seems to me you will certainly achieve. (By the way, I shall inform the Scotland based “Korngold Society” that you gave the first performance. They thought the first performance was given by a young lady – her name escapes me – last year).


Unfortunately, due to the recent by-pass operation it seems rather unlikely that I would be in England at the time of your performances. I am sorry but I am sure you understand.


Did you know that Korngold wrote quite a bit of very worthwhile chamber music? You and your group might be interested. Schott is the publisher and there is a piano trio, 3 quartets, a sextet, a quintet, a suit for left hand piano and 2 violins and cello as well as a violin sonata.


Do let me hear from you again. I would be very interested to know how the performances went – especially your debut in London. If anyone makes a tape, I would love to hear it…


For now, kindest regards and best wishes.


Sincerely,

George Korngold


April 7, 1986


1
Nov

Time 0ut

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Film buffs at Friday’s free BBC concert at Maida vale may detect familiar strains in Korngold’s headily dreamy Violin Concerto. Themes from the ex-child prodigy’s film music, notably the Erroll Flynn costume comedy ‘The Prince and the Pauper’, are noticeable. ‘It sounds a bit duff put like that,’ syas the soloist Stephen Bryant, ‘but it’s cleverly fitted together.’


At ten the Moravian-born Korngold was called a genius by Mahler, at 13 acclaimed for a ballet. Today he’s remembered mainly for film scores (‘Robin Hood’, ‘Captain Blood’), and for the lush, sweet-sherry Violin Concerto.


Bryant was surprised to find he’d been given the British Première of it as a student. ‘I’d admired the Heifitz recording and a friend got me the music in America. Then he got irritated and bet me £10 I wouldn’t be able to learn it over Christmas for some concert trials at college.’ Bryant won the bet, inadvertently giving the first British performance of a swooningly Romantic work that leaves one wondering what little Erich Wolfgang might have achieved if he’d resisted the lure of tinseltown.